Do you see her? Do you see this woman?
This is Jesus’ question to Simon. It is a question that as a woman who has been in the church all of her life, I too have asked. The stories of women in the Bible are few and far between. At times it feels like a treasure hunt, searching Scripture for a glimpse, for a mention to find something that I could connect with as a female. To find my story, to relate with a person who saw and touched Jesus. It’s hard to find the female voice in the Bible, it takes time to pull back the layers, to see the silent figures in the background. It is surprising then that in the Gospel of Luke, we are given this wonderful and sensual story of a nameless woman coming and washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. She is the main character of the story and she is used to show how Simon was inhospitable, arrogant and blinded by judgement and power.
But there is another story that needs to be heard. There is another women’s story that needs to be seen and brought into the light. For today the lectionary gives us not just one story but two. But did you see her? Did you see the woman? The wife of Uriah, Bethsheba.
The reading today only gives us two verses of Bethsheba’s story. We are told that when she had heard her husband, Uriah, had died, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning period was over, David sent and brought her into his home. She became his wife and she bore him a son. These two verses make it all sound nice and lovely, with this information we can wonder why God is angry with David. Why Nathan shows up on David’s doorstep to call attention to his actions. What we are not told is the story of how David and Bethsheba first met. It was not a sweet meeting of soul mates but a meeting between rapist and victim. David takes what he thinks he is entitled too and he keeps taking. Taking the life Bethsheba’s husband and then takes her as his own. This is a women story in Biblical times and sadly it is still a women’s story.
According to statistics, one in every four women will experience some form of emotional, physical, psychological and sexual abuse from a male intimate partner in her lifetime. This was brought home this week, with the sentencing in the Stanford rape case in the USA. Where many and especially the 23-year-old victim and survivor of the rape, wonder if justice was done. We wonder in a world where “no” can still be heard as yes or maybe, were consent is not understood, where a skirt is not just a skirt but can bring unwanted comments and advances. Where horrible actions can be blamed on the “culture of drinking”, peer pressure and sexual promiscuity. That in our Church, we still worry about sexual purity and still have a very small definition of what a relationship is. Where our church lectionary sees the story of David’s sinfulness and repentance more important than actually showing the full story by telling about the victim who suffered at the hands of David. (glaringly absent) We wonder but do we see?
God sees. God sees what David did, God sees the death of Uriah and the rape of Bathesheba and God is not silent. God saw but do we?
In the gospel reading, we are faced with another story of a women. She is nameless but she is strong and courageous. She also bears the title of sinner in the story but in our history, we have assumed her sin to be sexual, that she was a prostitute or an adulteress. This the pervasiveness of the way our culture looks at women. That if a woman is sinful it must be sexual and not, as one commentary suggest (tongue in cheek) that she cheats on her taxes. It is interesting, that the only sin we can ascribe to this woman is sexual promiscuity.
This woman comes. Nameless, friendless and seemly no way to escape the branding of being(?) a “sinner”. She learns that Jesus is in the city and she goes, bringing with her, her designation of sinner and an alabaster jar of ointment. She comes, for what? For hope, to be seen, to be forgiven, to be healed or maybe even justice. That Jesus will see her and will not reject. That she might be restored to life, to wholeness, to be brought back into the folds of community. To be fully herself and not a sinner. She comes, do you see her?
She comes uninvited to a dinner party. She comes and makes everyone uncomfortable, expect, expect Jesus. And they judge, Simon and his guests, make remarks about what kind of women this is and if Jesus was truly the prophet he was. He would know. Jesus does know and sees, sees her.
Jesus sees, do we see?
Jesus asks Simon, “Do you see this woman?” do you really see her? Do you see that she has offered me the hospitality that you did not offer? She has shown me great love. Jesus challenges Simon to see. To open his eyes, to truly see what is around him. To be uncomfortable because when you open your eyes, you never know who or what you will see, who will come into your periphery.
And that is the scariest part of it all. Jesus asks and challenges us to open our eyes. Do you see?
When we open our eyes, truly open them. We see things as they are, not as they are suppose be or how we want them to be.
Do you see?
The structures and systems that we participate in, that continually look for the problem outside, instead of in our own backyard or in ourselves.
Do you see?
That as long as we narrow forgiveness to just between one self and God. We do not repair the broken relationships with our neighbours and our communities. That when we do this, we separate the two great commandments. That loving God and loving our neighbour hang together, one cannot be without the other.
Do you see?
That God asks David and Simon and all of us to travel the uncomfortable road of being fully aware, eyes wide open. That it is not with power, money or status that will save us. It is our faith.
Hold steady, hold fast. Don’t close your eyes. Do you see her? Do you see him? Do not keep silent.
But go in faith, to bear witness. That she does not stand alone, no one stands alone. Together, we can see the full story, the fuller story, together we received the body and blood of Jesus. Together we can be the greater love that is to be shown.
But do you see?